When You Believe Things Aren’t Fair

I’d been with my company for a little over five years when we hired a new employee to join our team. Now, she lived significantly farther away from the office than the rest of us did, so she would come in really early in the morning and leave earlier just to avoid some of that crazy California traffic. Then she would work from home on Fridays, again, to avoid the traffic and maximize her time. Now, our team was super supportive of that. We would adjust calls and meetings accordingly.

What I find though is the average person, the average teammate, which thank goodness I didn’t work with average, but now in the work that I do with organizations, the average person would say, “Oh! Well, if she gets to come in early, leave early, and work from home on Fridays, I want that exact same thing. And if you’re not going to give me that same thing, then it’s not fair. It’s not fair unless I have the exact accommodations that this person has.”

I want to change that definition, that thought around fairness. Fairness is not about giving you the exact thing that somebody else has.

What we can do to promote fairness is by evaluating individual circumstances and trying to meet those individual needs, while at the same time making sure that we are still meeting the overall organization’s needs – which primarily come down to engagement and productivity.

For example, myself, I didn’t see that and say, “Oh, that’s a schedule I have to have.” I did ask to work from home on Fridays a few years later, after my specific circumstances were that I was traveling out of state a lot. So I asked to work from home on Fridays not to avoid traffic, but so that I could sleep an extra hour because I was just on a 6:00 AM flight the day before, or I hadn’t seen my kids in two days so I wanted to be able to be home when they got home from school, so that’s what I asked for.

A few years later, we had one of our very highly-valued team members who moved hundreds of miles away from our office. In order to retain her, we set up that she could work 100% remotely. It didn’t mean other people on the team who worked 15 minutes from the office said, “Since so-and-so is working 100% remote, to be ‘fair,’ I need to.” That’s not the type of culture, collaboration, and team spirit that should be built in organizations.

We want to build a level of fairness, but I challenge you that the fairness is all about understanding individuals.

Now, if it’s you, if you are the individual, are you communicating with your management your individual needs? Are you coming to the table being open for creative ideas and problem-solving to support you and the organization? If you’re a leader, are you getting in there and initiating the conversation, trying to understand what their needs are, and finding ways for you to support them?

I challenge you, take this video. If you’re a leader, take this video to your peers, have a conversation around this topic. It is so timely right now, as we are going back into the office, as we’re coming out of this pandemic, where there are going to be situations, whether it’s due to fear, different vaccination policies, or people who have now relocated but still want to work for the company. What are we doing to promote a spirit of fairness, while supporting the individual and the organization? I challenge you to have this conversation with your team and your peers.

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